Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara Attorney Successful in Connecticut Supreme Court Argument

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Attorney Stephen G. Walko wins in Supreme Court case involving a dispute between trust beneficiaries and will beneficiaries as to the rightful owner of real property that was owned by an individual as trustee but later devised in the individual’s will (CT SC 19668).

Stephen G. Walko, Esq.

In Zara Lackman Et Al. v. Samantha Hunt McAnulty Et Al., Hugh Hunt created a trust for the benefit of his children; he served as the trustee. He conveyed certain real property to himself, as Trustee; however, the trust documents were never recorded on the land records. Subsequent to conveying the property to himself as trustee, Mr. Hunt executed a will leaving the same property to his grandchildren. Upon his death, the Executor of the Estate of Hugh Hunt omitted the real property from the probate estate under the theory that because it was owned by “Hugh Hunt as Trustee”, the property passed to the beneficiaries of the trust. The beneficiaries of the will brought suit to challenge this action, claiming that the property passed to them under the will based on decedent’s failure to record the trust documents on the land records.

The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants, finding that the property was part of the trust, not decedent’s probate estate. Plaintiffs, the will beneficiaries, appealed. Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-199(c) and Practice Book § 65-1, the Supreme Court transferred the appeal to its court. On appeal, Plaintiff-Appellants asserted that the property passed to them under decedent’s will because of the failure to record the trust documents on the land records. Defendant-Appellees, the trust beneficiaries, asserted that the property passed to them and could not pass by will because decedent did not own the property at the time the will was executed and therefore was unable to devise the property by will.

After briefing and oral argument by Stephen G. Walko of Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara, LLC, the Connecticut Supreme Court panel (Hon. Richard N. Palmer, Hon. Peter T. Zarella, Hon. Dennis Eveleigh, Hon. Andrew J. McDonald and Hon. Richard A. Robinson) in its Opinion issued December 28, 2016, affirmed the trial court’s ruling in favor of Defendant-Appellees. On an issue of first impression, the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Walko’s argument that the plain and unambiguous language of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 47-20 did not apply because a will devise is not considered a transfer of an interest in real property, but merely a statement of a future intent to transfer property. The Court held that real property held in the trust created by decedent remained part of that trust, despite failure to record the trust on the land records. The Court further held that any of decedent’s subsequent attempts to convey the real property through his will were not effective. Therefore, the property was considered part of the trust, not decedent’s probate estate.

Defendant-Appellees were represented by Stephen G. Walko of Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara, LLC.

About Stephen G. Walko

Stephen Walko practices in the areas of civil and commercial litigation and employment law. He is extremely active in charitable and governmental affairs in the state of Connecticut and the Town of Greenwich. From 2008 to 2011, Walko served as Chairman of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation. He has been a member with this Board since 1999, serving on the Budget Committee. He has also served as Chairman of the Representative Town Meeting Budget Overview Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Republican Town Committee. In 2011, Walko was elected as a State Representative in the CT General Assembly, representing the 150th District, Greenwich’s shoreline.

About Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara, LLC
Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara, LLC is a general practice law firm which was established in Greenwich, CT in 1950. It is the largest Greenwich-based law firm, with additional offices in New Canaan, CT and New York City. The firm has more than thirty attorneys who handle a wide range of legal matters in areas such as Litigation, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Trusts & Estate Planning, Residential and Commercial Real Estate, Corporate, Employment Law and Franchise Finance and Acquisition

Visit our websites at http://www.ibolaw.com and http://www.ibopersonalinjurylawyers.com

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Stephen G. Walko, Esq.
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Ivey Barnum & O'Mara, LLC
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